Saturday, September 06, 2008

A December Vote on a New Constitution?


As promised, even though I am in Buenos Aires working this week, we continue with our coverage from Bolivia, courtesey of other members of the Democracy Center team. Here, from Lily Whitesell and others, is a report on the past week's political battles over President Morales' call for a December vote on MAS' proposed new constitution.

Jim Shultz

A December Vote on a New Constitution?

It's not often that the National Electoral Court makes headlines multiple times in one week. But the "CNE" has been taking care of business. It's fining television stations for having shown political ads in the 48 hours before the August 10 recall election. It has begun removing from the voter rolls those Bolivians who didn't vote. And most importantly, on Monday, it declared President Morales' decree - the one which called for a December 7th referendum on the new Constitution - null and void.

The Electoral Court's argument was that a referendum would need to be passed into law by Congress - not the president. (Morales' party MAS controls the House of Delegates, but the opposition controls the Senate by a slim majority.) The decision seemed to catch the Morales administration by surprise.

You can imagine how the week went. On Monday and Tuesday, spokespeople from the government lashed out at the Court and assured that the December 7th referendum would still be held. "We lament and condemn the conduct of the Electoral Court, which without legal nor legitimate arguments, through a letter, has decided to void the decree." No mincing words there. The opposition, on the other side, were thrilled about the decision, but quickly got back to their work of blockading highways and roads about the ongoing struggle about how the gas and oil revenues will be used and distributed.

By Thursday, the opposition was intensifying their blockades and threatening to go for the pipelines that pump gas and oil to Argentina and Brazil. The government, on the other hand, had toned down its rhetoric, with Vice President Lineras expressing the desire to work together and dialogue with the "democratic" part of the Bolivian right wing to get the law passed through Congress.

The Mandate

Last year, the Democracy Center wrote a briefing paper about the Constituent Assembly after a trip to Sucre. One of the main conclusions that we drew from that experience was that the conflict around the Constitution stems from one main issue, one point of disagreement between Evo Morales' supporters and opposers. That was: how much of a mandate does Morales have to shake things up in Bolivia?

Winning the election in 2005 by the highest percentage in Bolivian history - how much of a mandate did that give him? Enough of a mandate to "nationalize" gas (renegotiating contracts), it seems, has been pretty much agreed upon by all sides (they're all fighting over the money now, right?). But enough of a mandate to pass a Constitution that emerged as the second demand of the October 2003 protests? That question has been the source of much of the political back-and-forth of the last year or more.

And now, winning the recall referendum with 67% support, how much of a mandate does that give him? Has anything changed significantly in the political stalemate since where the country was on August 9th? There is still the government, there is still the opposition. Neither has the political will to budge from their current positions. In one sense, nothing has changed.

But in another sense, one key thing is different. If the government finds a way to dialogue with some of the more centrist members of the opposition, and to get the law for a December 7 referendum passed... Well, then maybe that recall election was a warm-up for the real vote. The 67% support for Morales could very easily translate into a 50 plus one percent victory for the Constitution next December.

La Yapa

As your casera can tell you, anything in Bolivia should have some yapa. In this case, we have three interviews from regular people about current events in Bolivia, with more coming next week. A number of them were done on referendum day, long before the Constitutional decree, but their basic messages still shed some light on the ups and downs of this week's events.

As a disclaimer, they are disproportionately from the city, and disproportionately middle class, but there are a variety of people (including one quite well-known Bolivian comedian - make sure to check the blog next week) and opinions among them, which I hope readers will find interesting, if not useful. You can see the videos in full on YouTube by following the links.

Grover Ledezma, a "common and ordinary citizen"

The DC: What do you think of the current political situation?

G: Well, to be honest it's a very complicated moment the one Bolivia is currently going through. It turns out that we currently have two Bolivias, an eastern Bolivia and a western Bolivia. Perhaps the ones that have more complications and to a certain extent have to “pay the broken dishes,” in this situation are the ones, like me, living in the valley. It's a situation where everyone picks sides, so Cochabamba currently finds itself divided by 2 different political views.

The DC: What message would you send to the government and also the opposition party?

G: Well, firstly to the government, for it to govern the whole of Bolivia not just the residents of the West, nor the residents of the tropics or the residents of the high lands of La Paz because we are all Bolivians. And for the opposition to act more cautiously before making its decisions. We just hope that we can all sit together to talk so [Bolivia can be] governable. I wish for a democratic government for all Bolivians and for people to respect a government chosen constitutionally, whether that is at a national level or at a departmental level but in reality we all need to be governed and we must comply with a government that has been constitutionally established.

The DC: Is there anything else you would like to add?

G: Well, surely, the eyes of other neighbor countries including the country of the North are upon Bolivia and I can only think to myself and at times think with other Bolivians on how can it be possible in a country with 8 million people and a country so rich for people not to be able to understand each other. As an intellectual of our country used to say, “the cause of our poverty is our wealth.” Well, we have to start by changing and proposing the construction of a strong democracy and a more socially, politically and economically stable country.

Don Waldo

Honestly, in Bolivia, we have had a split, a falling out between two groups, I would say, between the opposition and the current government, which actually acknowledges the needs of Bolivians, who are always the poorest out of all the countries. Since I am from the long-suffering class, [I support] Evo Morales. I know he knows what the needs of the Bolivian people are. It is really a shame in our country that the “rich” class, as they say, always wants to grab the baby bottle. They are the only ones that do well in life, they don’t let the long-suffering class rise.

Maria Julia

It's not that I disagree with Evo, because there are things that convince me about his work, but I think that there are also things that aren’t handled well. What really bothers me is this revenge logic, this logic of “now it’s our turn”. I think that a president has to shake himself out, I mean his personal identity, or his identity of origin, without forgetting it, but taking on the role of a conciliator, managing to unite all the differences. I don’t want us all to be the same, because we’re all different, but we have to learn to respect those differences. And that means from above, from all sides, from below, from each individual.

I think that before we think about whether we’re with MAS or with the opposition, or from here or from there, we’re all people, and people forget that. And furthermore, we’re all animals, right? But we think we’re the king of natural creation, or who knows what, owners of the land to exploit it and use the resources. To use everything and to use the people too. We forget about respect and being part of something, of a complete world, a balanced world. So I think we also have to make some adjustments in the government, because it’s not a matter of taking turns, it’s a matter of wanting to improve everyone’s lives.

Written by Lily Whitesell

Many thanks to our distance volunteers Ana Carolina Romero, Kristin Bard, and Maren Hill for their help with transcription and translation!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The road blockades, seizure of government buildings, and rioting would not be taking in Bolivia if it were the US, the world’s “beacon of Democracy”. Take for example the mass arrests of protesters and the arrests of members of the media, under the charge of "Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism", in this past week’s RNC in Minneapolis.

Instead of a “firm response”, like the security responses in the US, the government of Morales has taken to implementing referendum after referendum. Just last week, he called for another referendum in December. And, just this weekend a government plane with supplies for the police was assaulted by the “civicos” in Cobija, Pando.

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's right. Put all the civicos in jail, just like the police did it Minnessota. Afterall, what could Goldberg, Goni or Tuto could complain about?
Bolivia's police would just be following the footsteps of the great master and leader of democracy.
JAIL THE juventud crucenista, jail the idiotic women from Santa Cruz who were whipping the babies and thugs who beat up the military and police chiefs.
In the US that would be FELONY and would be put in Jail

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Santa Cruz, 07 sep (ABI).- Varias personas retenidas en un punto de bloqueo que controla la paramilitar Unión Juvenil Cruceñista (UJC) fueron víctimas de disparos de armas de fuego y muchos de ellos golpeados en las cercanías de Yapacaní cuando se negaron a pagar un monto económico, denunciaron al mediodía de este domingo."

The UJC violence is scalating in Bolivia. The "jovenes" have changed their repression tools from bats to guns.



4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anon @ 4:33 pm:

The image has to be set whereof the provocation must come from the paramilitary organizations.

I firmly believe that a military intervention in Santa Cruz is forthcoming. The rule of law must be re-established, especially given that these groups have begun to racketeer and intimidate the common citizenry.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evo's defining statement...

....."I've learned that, above what is legal, there is politics. Given that, when my advisors tell me 'Evo, what you are doing is illegal', I just go ahead and do it and tell them: 'if it isn't legal, make it legal. That's why you studied..." ... Evo Morales

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is not his defining statement, you numbskull.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was it not Evo himself that led strikes and blockades ... are those some of his own tactics now being used against him?

If he got such a legit majority (2/3)... why is the country in such upheaval... could the central issue be similar to the opposition in Venezuela?... Opposition to one man leading with centralized power? Even Simon bolivar said power shoud not be given to one person for too long.

Will the venezuelan loyalty payoffs to military leaders, in order to avoid a coup work?

What ever happen to that Army Lt Navas guy who blew up the tv station in Yacuiba? Is he out of jail... is he back with his unit? Where is he?

Lastly... will the military leadership and conscriptos comply if given orders by Evo to crush their own people? At some point they have to lay the law down.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 7:29 PM

"Lastly... will the military ... conscriptos comply if given orders by Evo to crush their own people? At some point they have to lay the law down."

It appears that it is not "their own people" but rather the middle class and upper class "numbskulls" who are instigating the violence.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time and again, Jim's amateur replacements demonstrate an alarming deficit of sound analysis, objectivity, and grammar.

Deficit example #1: Mockingly using the word "democractic" and "right wing" to describe the opposition' blockades. I'd prefer the use "social movements," the same term Morales and his minions described themselves while terrorizing the country for years. Furthermore, not all of those who support the autonomy social movements are from the right wing. They are patriots tired of the lies, corruption, and racism of the Morales government.

Deficit example #2: "The opposition, on the other side, were thrilled about the decision..." Huh? Opposition, singular. Were, plural.

Deficit example #3: "The opposition was intensifying their blockades..." Using "was" (singular) and "their" (plural) referring to the same subject? Tsk, tsk.

I could go on, but got a busy day ahead of me.

Jim, hurry back!


The Croats are Morales' Jews
Beni is Morales' Katrina

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go and tend your surplus store. The civicos are waiting for your merchandise.

puto cunumi

9:05 AM  
Anonymous El Grindio said...


Disregard Goldberg's cunumi. Just skim comments. If you see the boring, nonsensical "Croats are ..." mantras then don't read it. Save yourself grief and the time it takes to decipher the babble within by disregarding that comment. And say to yourself: "Viva Bolivia, carajo". It works for me. :-)

Without any ties to Bolivia or a compelling interest in securing establishment of its democracy, that person trolls here to muddle our discussions and attack president Morales' efforts. If a profound idea is developed by a comment that quotes its primary source and it is in Spanish, Goldberg's cumuni cries out for a translation and demand comments be in "the language of Shakespeare".

Amazingly, when Goldberg's speaking points or the Bush-Cheney party line's points need to be expressed, Spanish is not a problem. It's as if what they write or reference in Spanish is what they have been provided by someone who tells them what to post.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for the business with the croats, one has to bear in mind that a number of them were expelled from Yugoslavia after WW2 for being Nazi collaborators.

I suspect there is a Lebensraum project for Santa Cruz.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See the following link

For the full text that contains this extract:

“La Prefectura y el Comité Cívico se reunieron ya con las Fuerzas Armadas, que habían militarizado estos lugares, para que desalojen, pero no lo hicieron. Sólo estamos dando cumplimiento de nuestros estatutos, porque nosotros ya no dependemos del Estado”, sostuvo ayer Lucio Humaza, presidente de la Unión Juvenil del Beni.

Open rebellion against a Government that has the full support of the vast majority of the Bolivian people. If it were up to me, they would have been 'pacified' by now.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bottom of the racist barrel has surfaced again, I see.

I haven't read your stuff for a long time either, Quasimodo. We're even.

Your boring mantra of "democracy from the bottom up" means showing arses to Morales so he can whip 'em (Cuchi Cuchi and the Ekeko knows what else).


The Croats are Morales' Jews
Beni is Morales' Katrina

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any group that is a threat to a LEGITIMATE government should be treated this way.

I am sure you would agree, Mr. Croat lover. Their chicks sure are hot, aren't they?

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From La Razon, in today's Editorial page:

Lo NAZI en Bolivia.

"El estreno de La cacería del nazi ha removido un interés por el destino de los seguidores de Hitler en el país. ¿Qué tiene que ver Bolivia con ello? Algo pero no poco, si se tiene en cuenta que fue aquí donde se refugió Klaus Barbie (Altmann), quien luego de gozar, se dice, del favor de varios dictadores, fue enviado a la cárcel en Francia, donde murió.

El diario español El País ha seguido y encontrado otra pista, la de Hans Eartl, fotógrafo de Hitler y amante de la cineasta del III Reich, Leni Riefenstahl. Este hombre que registró los Juegos Olímpicos de Berlín de 1936, vino a Bolivia en los 50. Se quedó a vivir en la Chiquitania junto a sus cuatro hijas, una de las cuales, Monika, se unió al ELN y llegó a matar a uno de los responsables de la muerte del Che.

Parece novela, pero no lo es, como prueba la hija Beatriz que vive en el barrio paceño de Kupini en medio de recuerdos."

In other words, these social viruses, the supremacists that Europe threw out after WW2, found a pliable and acquiescent populace among the Guaranis (Cambas, actually). Germans, Croats, you name it. They had to escape, you see, and the long arm of the either the Mossad, or the various LEA's just didn't reach that far.

Or perhaps not yet. Leave it to the Kolla demographic tsunami to displace these undesirables.

4:35 PM  
Blogger BOLIVIA LIBRE said...

First at all, the 2005 election didn't gave the "highest percentage in Bolivian history"; the democratic elections post Agrarian Revolution geve MNR, a nationalistic populistic regime, over 80% of the votes, more than once in a row. Interesting how the neo indigenists view bolivian History attheir convenience, onetime is 500 hundred years, other time is just the past 20 years; unclever andstupid I will say.

From la Yapa I can only say that Maria Julia did agreat job trashing Don Waldo and the rest of the Evo lovers in this blog when shew said: "What really bothers me is this revenge logic, this logic of,now is our turn". Don Waldo said. "they don't let the long-suffering class rise". The point is, how do you want to rise? Evo teach this generetion of Bolivians that the way is trough violece and street unrest and he is now harvesting exactly what he seeded.
For the Evo lovers of violence that want the army taking over Santa Cruz, don't worry, they will try but that will not stop the revolution towards autonomy from the centrist, nazi like maSSist regime.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments are downright ridiculous 'BOLIVIA LIBRE.'

1. The MNR got that vote percentage BECAUSE it espoused policies that directly benefited the people, and not simply a few oligarchical entities.

2. You've got to be kidding me... 'maSSist regime'? They are simply reclaiming what belongs to them. Enough with the cycle of poverty in Bolivia, brought about by your ensconced elites.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, our friend Bolivia Libre is back after a long post 8/10 silence and desperately looking for a way to spin that a 2/3 vote of the people shouldn't be taken as anything important. And it should certainly not mean that the majority should get its way.

Going back a half century for vote statistics, well girl its a nice try but you'll have to do better than that.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he got such a legit majority (2/3)... why is the country in such upheaval... could the central issue be similar to the opposition in Venezuela?... Opposition to one man leading with centralized power? Even Simon bolivar said power shoud not be given to one person for too long.

Will the venezuelan loyalty payoffs to military leaders, in order to avoid a coup work?

What ever happen to that Army Lt Navas guy who blew up the tv station in Yacuiba? Is he out of jail... is he back with his unit? Where is he?

11:53 PM  
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2:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shameful, interventionist, distorted, partial, unobjective, ridiculous, harmful, damaging...

These words are not enough to convey the damage that the Democracy Centers´opinions on Bolivia convey. Talk about being partial, confused, and downright ludicrous.

Never has it been more appropriate to tell Mr. Schultz and his team: Gringos Go Home.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to mention "improper use of Spanish in an English blog."

Yet Jim, despite all his faults, is fair with the users of this blog, giving a voice to those who agree with him as well as those who don't. There are too many blogs that can't handle criticism and prefer to censure. He should be applauded for that.


The Croats are Morales' Jews
Beni is Morales; Katrina

10:02 AM  
Blogger Norman said...

Folks are slow on picking up on what's going on in Santa Cruz. It's a mess right now.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a mess, but at least the UJC is fighting against troops and not beating up pregnant women and toddlers....

2:26 PM  
Blogger Norman said...

I didn't see anyone wearing "I'm with the UJC" shirts. It looks like a mob to me.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Norman said...

Wow, I'm astonished at the silence! Autonomistas have taken the airport at Riberalta, havetaken the airport in Trinidad, have been rioting in Santa Cruz since about noon, have broken into destroyed the national tax office, have broken into and destroyed the INRA (National Institute of Agrarian Reformation - land resdistribution), have assaulted military and police, and in general behaved in a base and animalistic fashion. And I have nothing to say in their defense. I ran into an Air Force captain, (you can run into a lot of military and police today), and asked his opinion. He said that they've confused "autonomia con anarquia". That's about the best decription I can think of for what I've seen today. Pathetic!

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hehennn. iscuse me misters. hehenennnn...
has enebody seen miss buffyy?....around.....?

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Civicos, Golberg, Marinkovic, Sanchez de Lozada.
GO HOME please, stop your fascist, plutocratic practices.
Let Bolivia be. BASTA YA putoss go home to Yugoeslavia and Miami.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a note for clarification: "democratic" is in quotes because it is a quote from the Vice President, not to cast doubt or irony on the statement.

"García Linera manifestó que hay varias fuerzas de oposición, unas 'ultra derechistas y fascistas' que pretenden la confrontación entre bolivianos, pero hay una 'derecha democrática' con quienes se dialogará para encontrar mecanismos de acuerdos."
From Los Tiempos


9:43 AM  
Anonymous El Grindio said...

Let me see.

Issue 1) Wasn't it I that said this would happen?

Issue 2) Wasn't it I that wrote that a "MARKED" difference in the level of violence after Goldberg's secret strategic meeting-with the rebel leaders Marinkovic and Costas-may be attributable to Goldberg's instructions or advice?
(Intitially, the term "marked" was omitted but subsequently inserted in a clarification)

3) Is it not possible that Goldberg's secret advice was how to proceed to create caos and anarchy such that a plan for Goldberg's balkanization of Bolivia could proceed (a bloody plan that earned Goldberg his reputation as the "Butcher of Bosnia" for how he butchered that sovereign nation by villification of Serbs)?

Issue 4) Norman constantly defends Goldberg and the racist political repression machinery of the oligarchs. Previously, to my clarion call of the dangerous state of affairs in racist Santa Cruz, Norman tactically sought to diminish that threat by claiming that racism consisted of (according to his examples that he provided) a less than representative percentage of people of indigenous extraction compared to those of euro-centric derivation among the local bank's staff (ie, more whites than brown-skinned staff)

Only Goldberg can end the violence.
Santa Cruz's anarchists are not supported by the democratic governments of Chile, Argentina or Brazil. Only Bush-Cheney, Goldberg and the US mission support them. Without said support, the anarchists are a pariah entity.
Therefore, the racist, domestic terrorism can be ended by:
1) informing Costas, Marinkovic and Dabdoub that the US will never recognize Santa Cruz as a sovereign ;
2) informing the above they will never be granted asylum in the US; and
3) canceling the above's visas to the US, effective immediately.

Props to Lily:
Thank you for your brave front-line journalism.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

El Chunchu Gringo is right. But, still Goldberg should leave now.

He is what we call a "Khencha"

So, please Mr. Goldberg...
por favor le estoy pidiendo.... por favor... ya no hay mas chicha joven. Se retira nomás..

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